I’m writing to ask if any readers of the Victorian Web have information that connects the writer and playwright J.M.Barrie with Lulworth Cove in Dorset. It has recently been brought to my attention that while living in London, Barrie became involved with an intellectual circle who lived a short distance from his home in Kensington, London, some of whom were connected in one way or another, to Lulworth Cove. Barrie, for example, met Thomas Hardy through a friend Hugh Clifford in London. Hardy had an intimate knowledge of Lulworth. It was from here that Hardy drew inspiration for the poem ‘At Lulworth Cove a Century Back’. This poem was written in dedication of John Keats, who famously wrote the famous sonnet ‘Bright Star’ after landing at Lulworth, when on his way to Rome, where he died shortly after, of Tuberculosis. Barrie and Hardy remained life long friends and in 1933 Barrie performed a speech at the unveiling of Hardy’s life-sized statue in Dorchester; he also read at Hardy’s funeral.

Another of Barrie’s circle of friends in London was Sir Alfred Downing Fripp, Surgeon in Ordinary to Kind Edward VII from 1897-1910 and then George V from 1910. Fripp lived less than a mile from Barrie in London at Hyde Park. It is likely that they became acquainted while raising money for children’s charities and hospitals. Fripp, often holidayed in Lulworth Cove and in 1911 bought The Mill House (Now the Lulworth Beach Hotel), the same year that Barrie’s play Peter Pan was published as a novel under the title of Peter and Wendy. A further connection to Lulworth Cove can be made through his friendship with Sir Frederick Treves. Treves, who lived in London at the same time as Barrie, also owned a house in Lulworth. He was Sergeant Surgeon to Edward VII and had assisted Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man. His connection with Barrie was through the theatre. There is no doubt that Treves knew Alfred Fripp through their services to Edward VII. Treves was also acquainted with Thomas Hardy through the /Society of Dorset Men/, of which he was the first president.

I would be very interested in hearing from anyone who may have come across evidence supporting the connections made here. If anyone has any diary extracts or the correspondence between Barrie, Hardy, Fripp or Treves, which might place Barrie in Lulworth Cove at anytime during his life, I would be grateful to hear from them.

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Last modified 26 November 2009